Stark Deutschland – a Digital Transformation Success Story


Customer Lounge with Spark Vision's Digital Planning Tools


Stark Deutschland – a Digital Transformation Success Story

Facing the Challenges of a Changing Market

Stark Deutschland is a leading retailer of tiles and flooring with over 260 showrooms across Germany. The company is part of the Stark Group, a multinational conglomerate with over 1,200 locations throughout Northern and Central Europe. In the heart of Frankfurt’s trendy and creative Ostend district, we met with Peter Erfeling, Managing Director Tiles, and Christian Arends, Team Leader Digital Sales, at their combined head office and showroom.

Like many businesses serving the construction industry, Stark Deutschland is navigating through a number of challenges. The sharp decline in the number of new construction projects has led to a consequent downturn in the professional sector. Therefore, the company is proactively adjusting its strategies, with a particular focus on the renovation market. However, these adaptations are not without hurdles.

The foremost challenge is that consumers are more cautious than before. The combination of the Ukraine war, the energy crisis as well as the increase in the cost of living has led people to rethink their spending habits, especially when it comes to investments in home renovations.

Spark Vision's digital sales tools at Keramundo München

Digital Transformation: A Key to Sales Efficiency

Despite the tough market situation, Stark Deutschland is resolute in its efforts to overcome the hard times. One significant avenue that the company has pursued is the early adoption of digital sales tools. Erfeling and Arends explain that the decision to go digital with Spark Vision was driven by a need to improve sales efficiency.

“Sales efficiency is key for us,” Erfeling emphasizes. “Given the current market conditions, we need to make the most of every prospect we get. Digital tools have been instrumental in helping us achieve this.”

Peter Erfeling

Peter Erfeling, Managing Director Tiles

A Seamless Customer Journey

Stark Deutschland has implemented a digital customer journey that seamlessly blends online and in-store experiences. The company’s digital tools, such as the Tile Style Finder and Spark Digital Showroom, are designed to attract customers to the showroom and provide them with a coherent buying experience.

“Our goal was to create a seamless customer journey that starts online and continues in the showroom,” Arends explains. “By using digital tools, we provide customers with a personalized and engaging experience that helps them make informed decisions.”

From Overwhelmed to Informed

The normal consumer only decides on tiles two to three times in their life, which means that, each time, they basically start from zero. To remedy this, Stark has developed the Tile Style Finder, which helps prospective clients identify what genre of products they are interested in and thereby narrow down the selection significantly. “The Style Finder brings customers solutions rather than details”, Erfeling explains.

The five distinctive styles – Classic, Puristic, Trendy, Cottage and Mediterranean – are carried over to the two other digital sales tools and can be applied as filters to narrow down the assortment and greatly simplify product selection.

Tile Style Finder

The Keramundo Tile Style Finder (Fliesenstilfinder)

The Power of Visualization

Spark Vision’s digital tools are particularly effective in visualizing products and layouts. The Spark Digital Showroom, for instance, allows customers to see how different tiles would look in a realistic setting, such as a bathroom, living room, or hallway. It lets customers play with different colours, patterns, materials, and formats. For example, it becomes very obvious how large format tiles, with their fewer grout joints, contribute to an atmosphere of spaciousness and calm. “The Digital Showroom helps us sell large format tiles to a much higher extent, which increases the average deal size as well as our overall margin”, Arends explains.

In eleven Raab Karcher Showrooms, Stark Deutschland has also implemented the Digital Showroom in combination with an innovative exhibition furniture from the German producer Hauff. This MACH 3 furniture, equipped with dual displays and an RFID scanner, allows customers to have a real, physical interaction with the tiles to experience the true look and feel, in combination with a digital visualization of the same products in a realistic room context in the Spark Digital Showroom.

Spark Blueprint, the fast and easy-to-use planning tool, is used in the showrooms – on large screens in the so-called Consultation Lounges, as well as at salespeople’s desks, but also in online meetings – a lifesaver for the business during the Covid pandemic.

The large screen serves well as an attention getter and is good for cooperation and discussion between a salesperson and a couple of customers. At the desktop, on the other hand, the salesperson can work more focused with less interruptions.

A Conversation on Conversion

We get the opportunity to speak to Axel Bonse-Tiedt, who uses the tool daily. “I prefer to do the planning together with the client, even if I often do some preparation in advance, such as defining the room layout and adapting niches to fit the standard tile dimensions (30/60/90/120 cm)”, Bonse-Tiedt explains.

“One of the main benefits from using Blueprint is that the time spent with each client has dropped from 3 to 2 hours on average.” The reason for this dramatic reduction of decision time spells security. “Many customers have a difficulty imagining their project in 3D in their head, especially the male ones. Blueprint’s Cloud Render images really help customers understand how their room will look. They take away all the uncertainty!”, Bonse-Tiedt explains. Erfeling emphatically agrees: “Me and my wife recently bought an older house and went on to renovate it, so I have a first-hand experience that this combination of physical samples and digital planning and visualization really works! At the end of the process, I had a very happy wife!”

Customer conversion is a topic that keeps coming up throughout our conversation. “Helping the customer planning and visualizing their project is such an appreciated service. People just love it! They are in fact surprised that we do this for free”, Arends says. “This proof of our professionalism really ties in the customer. Why would they go anywhere else?”

When asked about his prior experience of planning tools, Bonse-Tiedt recalls having participated in a Visoft training, but politely yet firmly turning down the offer to use the tool afterwards. “It was far too complex and time consuming”, he says. “Later, when our management instead introduced Blueprint, I was really thrilled, and instantly felt ‘YES! This is it!’ Whereas some people still struggle with Visoft, spending 5 hours on a bathroom design, I can do a first draft in Blueprint in only 5 minutes and then have the entire project completed together with the customer within 30 minutes!”

Your own architect - Spark Bluepint

Effective Data Management

Previously, Stark Deutschland suffered from a very diverse assortment. Although the intention was to keep a universal product range, in practice, different shops sold a variety of products from different suppliers. This led to sub-optimisation on a corporate level. The Stark headquarters naturally wanted to push fewer products from the inhouse brands – Kermos for tiles, Raw for flooring and Terralis for outdoor tiles – in order to maximise margins.

The introduction of digital tools allowed the company to regain control. Now, all shops push the corporate-wide assortment, which not only is much more efficient to maintain, but also leads to bigger volumes per product.

Another advantage is the consistency of data across the digital sales tools. Previously, Stark had a different supplier for the room configurator, which needed a labour-intense 6-8 weeks to prepare each assortment update. Besides the unnecessary costs involved, this led to periods of inconsistency between the tools, which caused discontent among users and customers.

Since the switch to the Digital Showroom, however, there is always a 1:1 match between the sales tools. Christian Arends explains how he, nowadays, manages the update of Spark Blueprint directly from the PIM system in 1½ hour. The Digital Showroom is consequently updated at a single press of a button three minutes later!

The result – 1:1 consistency between the tools, incredible time savings, significant cost reduction and total control!

Christian Arends

Christian Arends, Team Leader Digital Sales

Stark’s Digital Journey Continues

When asked about what the future holds, Arends talks about the very recent initiative to open the company’s web store, which previously was reserved for professional customers only, for consumers. “The next logical step would be to connect Blueprint to the webstore and potentially also our ERP system. Being able to push your selected tiles in correct quantities directly to your shopping cart to get a quote or even place the order would be really convenient and yet another way to save time.”

Stark Deutschland’s digital transformation is nothing short of a definite success, revolutionizing the customer journey. By embracing digital tools, Stark has not only enhanced customer engagement and satisfaction but also improved efficiency and boosted sales. As Erfeling aptly summarizes: “Digital tools play a pivotal role in catching customers and sparking enthusiasm! And if you think that only young people use them, and not the fifty plus – think again! Everybody loves them!”

Hopefully, Stark’s digital success story can serve as inspiration and evidence as to how technology has the power to reshape the retail landscape.

Enhance customer engagement and drive sales with our interactive 3D planning tools.

Get a Demo